Advocacy Update ~ April 1, 2019

Advocacy Update Webinar

On Friday, March 29, the GHC advocacy team hosted its first quarterly Advocacy Update webinar. The purpose of this webinar series is to bring these written updates to life – allowing for more dialogue about current events along with a deeper dive into topics such as the U.S. appropriations process. You can access the webinar, PowerPoint slides, and follow-up action items on our website.

Appropriations Update

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) hopes to begin work on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 appropriations bills in April, with the Labor, Health and Human Services; Defense; and Legislative Branch bills among the first to be drafted and marked up. There is no indication on timing for the State and Foreign Operations bill, which funds USAID and the State Department. Similar to last year, the House would most likely advance appropriations bills in small spending packages – combining two or more appropriations bills together.

What remains to be determined is the individual spending allocations for each appropriations bill, a process made more complicated this year with the expiration of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. A new budget deal will need to be reached in order to lift spending caps for both defense and non-defense discretionary spending. If there is not a budget deal, all programs would be subject to sequestration, or an across-the-board cut to appropriated funds.

Review GHC’s Funding Chart.

Secretary Pompeo Announces Expansion of Mexico City Policy

Last week, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, announced a new interpretation of a technical clarification that was originally issued as part of the first review of the expanded Mexico City Policy (MCP), also known as the Global Gag Rule. The announcement was made at a short press conference, and other than a brief one page document released by the White House, no further information has been released. According to PAI, the interpretation expands the reach of the MCP to “effectively prohibit a foreign recipient of U.S. global health funding from using its non-U.S. government assistance to support any kind of health or development work of a foreign partner, if that partner separately engages in abortion-related work with its own funding.” This means programs funding by other bilateral (DFID, etc.) or private donors (the Gates Foundation, etc.) would essentially be subjected to MCP, if a foreign NGO sub-grants this funding to another foreign NGO which provides abortion-related services with its own funding.

In addition, Secretary Pompeo announced that the United States would cut $210,000 in funds to the Organization of American States (OAS), citing that OAS was in violation of the Siljander amendment, which prohibits the direct use of U.S. foreign assistance funds to “lobby for or against abortion.” The administration is targeting two statements made by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), a body of OAS, to the governments of El Salvador and Argentina asking them to comply with international human rights standards and ensure the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls. Read more on this decision from PAI.

Secretary Pompeo Appears Before House SFOPS and HFAC

On March 27, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPs) and the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) in regards to the State Department’s foreign policy strategy and FY 2020 budget request.

House SFOPs

During her opening remarks, Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) commented on her disappointment of the president’s proposed budget and its inadequate support of the international development community. “I have seen firsthand how U.S. foreign assistance alleviates suffering and promotes stability. Our efforts save lives, promote goodwill and partnership, and support American interests and national security. If the President’s budget were enacted, it would undermine U.S. leadership and stymie worldwide efforts to counter violent extremism, terrorism and disinformation.

Ranking Member Hal Rogers (R-KY) reiterated the need for strong investments for national security efforts to be successful and the inadequate proposed funding put forth “…is still woefully inadequate to achieve the administration’s foreign policy and national security goals…in particular, deep reductions are proposed to important priorities like security assistance, global health, democracy promotion, and even life-saving humanitarian assistance.”

Secretary Pompeo discussed the president’s plan to support key U.S. allies stating “President Trump has made it clear that U.S. foreign assistance should serve America’s interests, and should support countries that help us to advance our foreign policy goals.”

Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) asked how the State Department plans on maintaining its long-standing leadership role in supporting the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) and global HIV/AIDS work with the proposed budget cuts, adding, “we know that progress on preventing new infections is stagnant and that tens of millions of people will need sustained access to antiretroviral therapy over the next decade…although pleased about increasing support on domestic HIV/AIDS efforts stepping back on our leadership on global side.”

In response, Secretary Pompeo stated, “There is no nation, including in the most recent fiscal year, that has been as generous, that has asked their citizens to contribute as much…we will continue to lead.”

Representative Lee followed up by asking why the State Department would reduce contributions if progress is being made “when in fact, the American people want us to succeed and every report we have shows that if we pull back, the infection rates will increase and we won’t succeed.”

Secretary Pompeo replied optimistically, stating that the U.S. would be successful in addressing the HIV/AIDs epidemic, but provided no plan outlining how the agency would achieve success given the proposed budget cuts.

View the hearing.

HFAC

During his opening remarks, Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) expressed his disappointment of the proposed State Department budget cuts noting “this [budget] in my view demonstrates contempt for diplomacy and diplomats and contempt for the Congress, frankly, whose job it is to decide how much to spend on foreign affairs…Congress won’t stand by and see American leadership on the global stage undermined.”

Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX) stated, “I believe that certain cuts can have unintended consequences that cost us more in the long term…This is especially true of cuts to critical humanitarian and developmental assistance programs that promote democracy, support economic growth, and provide lifesaving resources to bolster stability in areas at risk of terrorism and extremist ideologies.”

Although Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) questioned the administration’s pledge to review U.S. aid in Africa mention of specific global health programs were not discussed.

View the hearing.

G7/G20 Recommendations

In advance of the upcoming G7 and G20 meetings, InterAction released their policy recommendations on key development topics. GHC and other global health organizations contributed to the recommendations on health focusing on the opportunities this year to advance Universal Health Coverage. Read the G7 brief and G20 brief.

Upcoming Advocacy Opportunities

In the upcoming months, Global Health Council and members of the global health advocacy community will be on Capitol Hill, educating members of Congress about our work. For more information, please email us.

 

This post was written by Danielle Heiberg, Senior Manager, Policy & Advocacy, and Victoria Rodriguez, Advocacy Associate.

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